Kenyon College policy limits journalists' access to Board of Trustees

OHIO — Student journalists at Kenyon College are fighting apolicy that limits their access to decision-makers by making the president thecontact person for the Board of Trustees.

Kenyon Collegian Editors-in-Chief Sarah Queller and Sarah Friedmanreported in an editorial last week that they had received an e-mail sent to thetrustees by college President S. Georgia Nugent. The e-mail, sent in April, toldtrustees that they were to direct all questions from Collegian reportersto her office.

In their editorial, Queller and Friedman wrote, “We as students deserve tocommunicate with trustees, and the Collegian cannot be a legitimate news sourcefor the College if it is denied access to critical decision-makers in Collegeaffairs.”

The two were called in to speak with Nugent after attempting to talk totrustees about the policy. They were told they should call the president’soffice with questions about board meetings, rather than individualtrustees.

Queller said she questioned the legitimacy of a rule prohibiting studentjournalists from calling Board members.

“They can deny comment, but we still have a right to call them,” she said.When she called trustees in April and afterward, Queller said some werenoticeably angry and implied she should have known better than to call.

Because Kenyon Board meetings, where trustees make decisionsconcerning the future of the college, are not open to the public,reporters must speak to someone who attended to find out what happened.

Friedman and Queller also pointed out the importance of having multiplesources in a story to provide different points of view.

“The Collegian always strives to adhere to that most basic of journalisticprinciples – finding sources to represent all sides – and takes issue with aCollege policy that questions our editors’ judgment,” they wrote.

Shawn Presley, director of Public Affairs at Kenyon, compared the procedureto that of a public relations office, wherein the staff assists reporters bydirecting them to the person who can best answer their questions. He said theplan was a recommended practice, as opposed to a policy that could result innegative consequences if not followed.

He said the president would be willing to pass journalists on to trustees”as long as the subject matter were appropriate, as long as it’s somethingthey’re able to discuss.”

Queller and Friedman’s editorial states that Collegian reporters donot attempt to question sources from whom they can obtain littleinformation.

“Collegian reporters have only ever contacted trustees for comment onarticles that are directly related to their involvement with the College, suchas their seasonal meetings or this policy,” they said.